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Safety of Our Students: SAVE Calls on Congress to Fix Broken System of Campus Rape Panels

Contact: Teri Stoddard
Telephone: 301-801-0608

Safety of Our Students: SAVE Calls on Congress to Fix Broken System of Campus Rape Panels

WASHINGTON / May 21, 2014 – Based on growing complaints by victims and accused students, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is calling on Congress to fix the current system of campus disciplinary committees. A 2011 federal policy mandated that these panels adjudicate claims of campus sexual assault. Over 350 editorials to date have sharply criticized the boards both for shortchanging victims and violating the rights of the accused:

SAVE is proposing enactment of a new law entitled “SOS: Safety of Our Students.” The law would require that all allegations of campus criminal sexual assault be referred to local criminal justice authorities for investigation and adjudication. The full text of the bill can be seen here:

In 2011 the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter that shifted responsibility for campus rape cases to the committees that handle cheating and plagiarism cases. These panels lack legal authority to subpoena witnesses, conduct in-depth investigations, or impose criminal sanctions.

On May 1, 2014 the Department of Education announced it was launching investigations of 55 universities for “possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints.” The probe underscores federal concerns over the turmoil and confusion that the current system is now experiencing.

Five days later a USA Today Editorial Board column charged the current approach is “failing” because the “strongest punishment schools can deliver is to expel a rapist from campus.” A May 13 editorial by the Los Angeles Times Board echoed similar concerns.

“Despite the best of intentions by its proponents, the current system represents second-class justice to victims and third-world justice for the accused,” charges SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “We call on Congress to act promptly to respond to the growing crisis in handling campus rape cases.”

Stop Abusive and Violent Environments—SAVE—is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to domestic violence and sexual assault: